OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312



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Pennyroyal in early sources

Description      Propagation      Cultivation      Harvest

Mentha pulegium

Mentha, mint

Pulegium from Latin puleium or pulegium, from pulex flea (not the same as American pennyroyal, Hedeoma pulegioides, an annual that prefers dry, rocky soils.)

Common names, modern

Pennyroyal, from puliall royal, from pulex, flea, as the plant is a potent or "sovereign" insect repellent



Short-lived perennial

Cold hardiness

Z 6-9, but self-seeds well in colder areas


12" H x 12" W

Pennyroyal plant in bloomHabit

The smallest of the mints, the creeping form of pennyroyal, Mentha pulegium procumbens, has weak, prostrate stems from 3"to 12" long that root at each node. 

The upright form, Mentha pulegium erecta, has upstanding stems 8" to 12" tall.


Pennyroyal flowerFlower

Small reddish purple to lilac blue flower, found at nodes where leaves join stem


Foliage  and flowers are strongly mint-scented, very clean smell


Slightly toothed leaves, opposite one another on stem


Pennyroyal was once used as a seasoning (and for this reason was also called pudding grass), but seldom is today. It can cause a skin rash in some people. Once used as an abortifacient, pennyroyal was feared because its therapeutic dose can lead to fatal liver damage (a woman died of pennyroyal poisoning in 1997). For this reason, women who are or may be pregnant should avoid ingesting pennyroyal, whether as a seasoning or in tea. Oil of pennyroyal is highly toxic, and should never be taken internally.


By seed

Easy from seed and from stem cuttings. Seed may be slow to germinate.

Germination temperature

68 degrees

Germination time

5-21 days


Keep seedlings moist but not soggy; bottom watering is best


Needs light to germinate, so sow on surface of moist potting soil, tent with clear plastic to keep humidity high, and place where pots are in good light



Pennyroyal likes a rich, moist soil that is loamy rather than clayey.


Although pennyroyal is drought tolerant, it likes moderate watering.


Sunny to part shade

Companion planting

Good companion plant as its strong scent may confuse or repel pests like cabbage moths, but ladybugs seem to like it, which is nice as they eat aphids. It is also useful as a ground cover, or between stepping stones, where it will tolerate light foot traffic


Enthusiastic self-sower, spreading eagerly where happy


Verticillium wilt, rust (especially if fertilized with manure), anthracnose


Spider mites, some aphids


Deadhead if self-seeding is a concern; prune after flowering to encourage plant to become bushier


Season to bloom/bear

Flowers midsummer to early fall

Seed collection

Allow to set seed, gather in fall as seed becomes dry. Let cleaned seed dry inside on a saucer for a week or two, then store in a sealed paper envelope in dry location that doesn't freeze. Or allow to self-seed, and relocate seedlings in spring.

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